Ed Murray was elected Tuesday as majority leader of the Washington State Senate, making him the second openly gay person in U.S. history to lead a state senate.
Murray, a Democrat, has been a state senator since 2006 and served 11 years in the state House of Representatives before that, notes the Victory Fund blog Gay Politics. He was the lead sponsor of the state's marriage equality bill, which passed earlier this year and was affirmed by voters in last week's election.
"We have work to do in Olympia -- prioritizing education, creating jobs for the middle class, and ensuring Washingtonians have the health care they need," Murray said in a press release Tuesday evening. "And one of our challenges in a closely divided chamber is to ensure that the Senate is able to fulfill its obligation to govern the state, in tandem with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the House. These are not simple challenges, but they are solvable. We can find solutions that work for all of Washington."
The only other openly gay person to head a state senate was the late Allan Spear, president of the Minnesota Senate from 1992 to 2000. Spear was a senator from 1972 until his retirement in 2000; he came out as gay in 1974. Current LGBT leaders of state houses or assemblies are California Assembly speaker John Perez, Rhode Island House speaker Gordon D. Fox, and incoming Colorado House speaker Mark Ferrandino. Rep. Tina Kotek, a lesbian, is expected to be elected speaker of the Oregon House this week.
"We congratulate Senator Murray for this wonderful recognition of his leadership skills and dedication to the people of Washington," said Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe. "He has proven that openly LGBT Americans have much to offer their communities as leaders and representatives, and his commitment to open and honest public service has set an example for LGBT youth."